Author, J. Carrell Jones sent me a paperback copy of his novel, Grid Traveler Trilogy. I’ve had it for months, but I’ve put off reading it because it doesn’t have any other reviews. I don’t like to be first, in case I don’t like a book and there aren’t any other reviews to balance things out. But I’m so conscious of the fact that it costs authors money to post paper copies that I’m starting to feel guilty now. So, I finally gave in and read it.
Description from Goodreads:
Long ago we were visited by aliens. They shared knowledge and told us stories of life. They showed us magick and made us believe. Then one day they left. We wondered what happened to them. We searched the skies . . . Through the years we performed “magick” hoping they would return. Epochs passed and we went searching for them to discover proof the Elders and Ancient Ones existed. Toward the end of the last war a hero fell from grace. This is the story of Sean Blakemore and his path to redemption. This is where our journey beings. Grid Traveler Trilogy contains the first three Grid Traveler eBooks: Distant Reality, Alien Shores, and Lines Crossed.
This single book contains three ‘acts’ or episodes (Distant Reality, Alien Shores, Lines Crossed). Before I get into the real review let me address the episodic nature of the book. The whole thing is very Star Trek-like—lots of orders to the helm and such—but also, despite being interconnected, each act reads and feels like watching a single, 52 minute episode of one of the television shows. It has a basic beginning, brief middle, quick wrap up and an end. Everything happens quickly. Considering the writer is wearing a Star-Trek (I believe) the New Generation costume in his author bio picture, I can’t imagine these similarities are accidental. I’ll stop short of calling it fan-fiction, but the Johnson does often feel very much like the Enterprise.
For the most part the writing was pretty good. The POVs did frequently shift very abruptly and on occasion it fell into the habit of using names and titles too often. You know what I mean, when every time a person is addressed the sentence starts with the persons name. No one does this in real life and it stands out in written form.
There were also times when it felt naively good-natured and, therefore, unrealistic. When the two tendencies coincided it shattered the readers’ ability to submerge themselves in the story—such as when Sean decided to forgive everyone in Act One, or in Act Two, when Dr. Logger stated, “Sean has told me that his Command staff must not be excluded from any information, members or not. If I hadn’t witnessed how this ship operates under extreme conditions I would have objected to a request like that. But after witnessing first hand, I have no objection to telling you any and everything.” Yea, she’s just gonna give up hundreds of years of secrecy just like that? However, this was the exception rather than the norm. It also happens to be a pet peeve of mine, so I couldn’t not mention it.
On the whole, I thought women tended to come off poorly, as manipulative, prone to freeze under pressure, or just go power mad (occasionally all three). I mention it not only because I found it unfortunate, but also because I think it will affect who the book appeals to. You see, I think the Star-Trek comparison might bring in the male crowd (as would the cover and book description), but the amount of romance/sex will probably appeal to the female crowd. Unfortunately, both will also possibly be put off by the other.
My point is that the sex seemed out of place, in two ways. In the beginning, the romance was very fast. It was too fast to be realistic. Think PNR insta-love. Then later on, by Act Three, Sean had developed a harem, a fickle libido and the sex was gratuitous and disruptive to the plot. Go ahead, imagine Star Trek and then throw in a couple orgy and/or lesbian sex scenes. It kind of looses some of it’s integrity, don’t you think?
It completely didn’t fit the genre and it is therefore unclear who the intended reader is. Is the book intended for romance and erotic readers, who would be predominantly female, or hard science fiction fans, who would be mainly male? Of course there is flex in either direction. Generalities are always dangerous, but you probably get my point. The question is especially important given that there is no indication that this is a romantic or erotic novel in the description.
Despite it’s muddied genre classification, I did enjoy many aspects of the story. A lot of the characters were a lot of fun. Sean was wonderfully loyal and steadfast to his crew and I REALLY enjoyed some of the crew’s quirks. I was especially fond of the constant running pools and the importance of food. Cookie was arguably the most important person on board. The mixing of Wicca and Science was an interesting plot device and, despite leaving enough of an opening for future books, I wasn’t left with a precipitous cliffhanger. Not a bad read.